Category Archives: Book reviews

Review of “See How It’s Made”

This is a review of the book See How It’s Made written by Penny Smith and Lorrie Mack.

The Summary

This book takes several everyday products such as ice cream, CDs, t-shirts, crayons, etc. and illustrates the process of how the item is made. The authors take you into the factory where these products are produced and shows you through the use of photographs how each item is made. It can be surprising even for teachers to learn how much work goes into making CDs or apple juice.

The Good

The photo rich environment of the text makes it as realistic as possible. In addition, choosing common everyday items really helps in relevancy for students. Many kids find it interesting to know how pencils and crayons are made. The book is truly engaging at least in a one-on-one situation.

The Bad

The text is small in this book. This would make reading it difficult for younger students. In addition, although I appreciate the photos there are so many jammed onto a single page that it would be difficult to share this book with an entire class. This leaves the book for use only in the class library for individual students. Lastly, kids learn a lot of

Lastly, kids learn a lot of relevant interesting things but there seems to be no overall point to the text. It just a collection of different processes for making things. It is left to the teacher to come up with a reason for reading this

The Recommendation

THis book is 3/5 stars. It’s a great text in terms of the visual stimulus but it can be difficult to read and lacks a sense of direction.

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Review of “The Great Wall of China”

In this post, we will look at another book that I have used as a K-12 teacher The Great Wall Of China (Aladdin Picture Books) by Leonard Everett Fisher (pp 31).

The Summary

The title clearly lets you know what the book is about. It focuses on Ch’in Shih Huang Ti and his quest to build a wall that would protect his empire from the Mongols. According to the text, Ch’in Shih Huang Ti was the first supreme emperor of China as he conquered several other small kingdoms to make what we now know as China.

The book depicts how the Mongols were coming and burning down border villages in China and how the Emperor plans and builds the wall. Men were dragged from their families to go and work on the wall. The Emperor even sent his oldest son and crown prince to help build the wall.

The project was a combination of building a new wall while also restoring walls that were in disrepair. Workers who complained or ran away were buried alive. It took a total of ten years to complete what is now called the Great Wall of China.

The Good 

My favorite aspect of the book is the iconic black and white drawings depicting ancient China. The stern look of the Emperor and the soldiers remains of the toughness of characters old western movies. Nobody smiles in the book until the last page when the Emperor is rejoicing over the completion of the Wall.

THe book doesn’t include a lot of text. Rather, the pictures do the majority of the storying telling. The pictures are large enough that you can use this book for a whole-class reading experience where the kids sit around you as you read the text and show them the pictures.

THe author also did an excellent job of simplifying the complexity of the building of the Great Wall into a few pages for young children. For example, there is much more to the Emperor’s son being sent to help build the Great Wall. However, the author reduces this complex problem down to the accusation that the Emperor thought his son was a “whiner.”

The Bad

I can’t say there is bad in this text as it depends on what your purpose is for buying the book. There is not a lot of text in the book as it is primarily picture-based. If you want your students to read on their own there is not a lot to read. For those of us who have a background in Chinese history, the text may be oversimplified.

The Recommendation

I would give this book 4.5/5 stars. Whether for your library or for sharing with your entire class this book will provide a great learning experience about a part of history that is normally not studied as much as it should be.

Review of “The Usborne Book of World History”

As a teacher, I have used hundreds of books in my career to instruct and guide students. As such, I decided I would share my thoughts on  some of these books to provide other educators with insights on potential instructional materials,

The Summary

“The Usborne Book of World History” covers, as you can probably guess, the history of the world from the beginning of recorded history to the dawn of the 20th century. Early civilizations such as the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Hittites are covered as well as more recent civilizations such as the Greeks, Romans, British Empire. There are mentions of African ad several Asian civilizations such as the Chinese and Japanese.

The Good

This book is rich with illustrations of all of the historical events and cultural topics. For young readers who are visual learners, this is a superb text for such an experience. In the text, there are illustrations of fighting between the Canaanites and the Philistines, an Assyrian king fighting a lion, life in the city of ancient Athens, and even depictions of settlers moving out west in what would later become the United States. This is completely a visually based learning experience.

The Bad

The focus on illustrations is a strength but also a weakness depending on your goals. The students can get so obsessed with the pictures that they never actually read the text in the book. This can be a problem if you are trying to get your students to develop their reading skills. In addition, The reading level of the text is probably at the 4th-5th-grade level which is beyond younger student.

This book is also not appropriate for a whole class read aloud because several illustrations are crammed onto one page. This would make it challenging for several students to all see what the teacher was talking about at the same time, which could quickly lead to behavioral problems.

Lastly, the book is somewhat detailed oriented in that it provides a bunch of little facts about each Kingdom or historical period. If you want the students to see the big picture you have to trace the themes of history yourself as there seem to be no pedagogical aids beyond the rich illustrations.

The Recommendation

The Usborne Book of World History absolutely deserves 4/5 stars. Buy it and put in your library as an opportunity for your students to “see” history rather than read about it. If you need something for whole-class instruction you better keep looking.